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Prison Legal News: April, 1996

Issue PDF
Volume 7, Number 4

In this issue:

  1. Microsoft Out-Cells Competition (p 1)
  2. The Keepers and the Caged: Heroes and Necromancers in the Prison System Today (Book Review) (p 4)
  3. Racist Guards at Florida Prison (p 4)
  4. From the Editor (p 5)
  5. Prison Population Statistics Available (p 5)
  6. Not All Prisoner Lawsuits Are Frivolous (p 6)
  7. Iowa Supreme Court: Hearing Required Before Prisoner Funds Seized (p 7)
  8. $55,540 in Attorney Fees for RFRA Suit (p 7)
  9. Parole Change Violates Ex Post Facto Clause (p 7)
  10. Washington DOC Enjoined from Taking Blood (p 8)
  11. Grievance Discipline Struck Down (p 8)
  12. Disciplinary Findings Must State Evidence Relied On (p 9)
  13. Oklahoma Pre-Parole Status Creates Liberty Interest (p 9)
  14. Exploitation of Ohio Prison Labor (p 10)
  15. Grievance Retaliation Unlawful (p 10)
  16. Jury Not Waived in "Doubtful Situation" (p 11)
  17. Peruvian POWs Rescued (p 11)
  18. Genital Groping States Claim (p 12)
  19. Michigan ACLU Protests Religious Prison College (p 12)
  20. Seventh Circuit Decides "Mail Box" Rule (p 12)
  21. Damn Lies and Statistics (p 13)
  22. Georgia Prisons Enter Dark Ages (p 13)
  23. Michigan Consent Decree Not Changed (p 14)
  24. Arizona's New Tin Horn Dictator (p 14)
  25. RFRA Applies to Retaliation Claims (p 15)
  26. Pelican Bay Psychiatrists Resign in Protest (p 15)
  27. Jailhouse Lawyers Retain Right to Assist Prisoners (p 16)
  28. Texas Guard Killed by Riot Shield (p 16)
  29. No Jurisdiction for Some Qualified Immunity Appeals (p 17)
  30. Permanent Injunction Issued in Madrid (p 17)
  31. $460,800 Verdict in Ohio Beating Affirmed (p 18)
  32. Discrimination Dismissal Reversed (p 18)
  33. Administrative Reversal of Disciplinary Sanction Doesn't Bar Suit (p 19)
  34. Fourth Circuit Rules on IFP Statute, Again (p 19)
  35. Sandin Inapplicable to Detainee Disciplinary Claims (p 20)
  36. $150,000 Jury Award in Beating Case Affirmed (p 21)
  37. News in Brief (p 22)
  38. Tuberculosis TRO Issued (p 23)

Microsoft Out-Cells Competition

In the Seattle area, home to software giant Microsoft, it's not uncommon to hear the phrase "Microsoft Millionaire." There exists a large number of ex-Microsoft employees who made their millions, quit the company, and are now free to enjoy other pursuits. Many of them are quite young, in their ...

The Keepers and the Caged: Heroes and Necromancers in the Prison System Today (Book Review)

by Jean Marie Christenson; Kendall/Hunt Publishing 241 pages. $14.95

The Keepers and the Caged is a compilation of 21 personal interviews conducted by the author with Washington State prisoners, prison administrators, and guards. Without "politically correct" editing, each person interviewed tells their truth about life behind the walls ...

Racist Guards at Florida Prison

Rarely do you find reports of racist actions of prison guards in the mainstream press. Most editors wouldn't consider it news for white prison guards to display racial hatred towards their black captives. Ho-hum. But the Palm Beach Post featured several lengthy articles in December about the racist actions ...

From the Editor

We want to thank the Southern Poverty Law Center for awarding a $5,000 grant to PLN. We still need $30,000 over the next two years to fund what amounts to a full-time staff position. The $5,000 grant from SPLC will give us breathing room and allow us ...

Prison Population Statistics Available

The annual BJS report on prison populations was released on Dec. 3, 1995. The number of state and federal prisoners grew by 89,707 during the 12 months ending June 30, 1995. It was the largest one-year population increase ever recorded in the U.S.

The state prison population grew ...

Not All Prisoner Lawsuits Are Frivolous

by Chief Judge Jon O. Newman, Second Circuit Court of Appeals

[Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the January, 1996, issue of The Corrections Professional. Judge Newman is the chief judge of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The article is based on his commencement ...

Iowa Supreme Court: Hearing Required Before Prisoner Funds Seized

The Iowa state supreme court has held that prisoners must be afforded a hearing before prison officials seize funds sent to the prisoner from outside sources in order to pay court ordered restitution. In 1982 Jerry Ashburn was convicted of robbery and escape. He was released on parole in 1989 ...

$55,540 in Attorney Fees for RFRA Suit

Schlomo Helbrans, an orthodox Jew, filed suit to prevent being shaven for a photo by prison officials upon his entry into the New York prison system. He contended that being shaven would violate his religious beliefs. He prevailed on his claim when he presented a computer generated likeness of what ...

Parole Change Violates Ex Post Facto Clause

In the July, 1995, issue of PLN we reported the supreme court's ruling in Morales v. California Department of Correction, 115 S.Ct. 1597 (1995) which held that legislatively extending the time in which a prisoner can appear before a parole board does not violate the ex post facto ...

Washington DOC Enjoined from Taking Blood

The Washington state court of appeals for Division I affirmed a superior court order enjoining the Washington DOC from taking blood from a prisoner for its DNA databank. Sheryl Kelley was convicted of drug possession. RCW 43.43.754 authorizes the DOC to take blood from persons convicted of a ...

Grievance Discipline Struck Down

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that found Oregon DOC rules that punished prisoners for using hostile, sexual, abusive or threatening language in their written grievances to be unconstitutional. Jeff Bradley, an Oregon state prisoner, was infracted for violating Or.Admin.R. 291-105-015 ...

Disciplinary Findings Must State Evidence Relied On

A federal district court in Illinois held that a disciplinary committee's report finding a prisoner guilty of misconduct must state the charges the prisoner was found guilty of and the evidence supporting each of the charges. Alvin Oswalt, an Illinois state prisoner, filed suit under 42 U.S.C ...

Oklahoma Pre-Parole Status Creates Liberty Interest

The court of appeals for the tenth circuit has held that Oklahoma's pre-parole conditional supervision program creates a due process liberty interest which mandates a hearing before prisoner's can be removed from it. This case is significant because it was decided in the aftermath of Sandin v. Conner ...

Exploitation of Ohio Prison Labor

Ohio Penal Industries (OPI) in recent years has stepped up their campaign to entice local industry into using Ohio's cheap prison labor force to manufacture their products. Their efforts have been met with considerable success. A number of Ohio companies have voiced their interest in the prospect of exploiting ...

Grievance Retaliation Unlawful

A federal district court in Michigan has held that it is unlawful for prison officials to retaliate against prisoners who complain of misconduct by guards and for prison officials to read legal mail sent to prisoners from the courts. Those claims were set for trial and a claim that legal ...

Jury Not Waived in "Doubtful Situation"

The fifth circuit court of appeals held that a plaintiff's right to a jury trial is not waived unless the plaintiff was clearly informed that an evidentiary hearing before a magistrate would constitute a trial. Darrell McAfee, a Texas state prisoner, filed suit against various policemen and prison officials ...

Peruvian POWs Rescued

[Editor's Note: Since 1980 the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) has waged a people's war in an effort to overthrow the US supported regime in Peru. That struggle suffered a major setback in 1992 when the party's chairman, Abimael Guzman, and several members of the central committee ...

Genital Groping States Claim

A federal district court in New York held that a prisoner's allegations of sexual harassment state a claim for a violation of the eighth amendment. Julio Hunt, a New York state prisoner, filed suit claiming that he had his penis and testicles squeezed and rubbed by a guard during ...

Michigan ACLU Protests Religious Prison College

The ACLU of Michigan has sent a complaint to the attorney general's office against Spring Arbor College, which holds a $560,000 DOC contract to teach college courses at four Michigan state prisons. The complaint was filed after the school sent out letters to prospective faculty stating they would ...

Seventh Circuit Decides "Mail Box" Rule

In a case of first impression in that circuit, the court of appeals for the seventh circuit ruled that a prisoner's pleadings are considered "filed" with the court when they are given to prison officials for mailing. The case involves an Illinois state prisoner who gave his notice of ...

Damn Lies and Statistics

Most PLN readers are well aware of the conservative PR campaign designed to convince legislators and the voting public that the courts are threatened with drowning in a deluge of prisoner-initiated litigation. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has developed model legislation designed to severely limit prisoner-initiated litigation. This ...

Georgia Prisons Enter Dark Ages

According to a PLN reader in Georgia, "Our ex-[Prisons] Commissioner, Dr. Allen Ault, got into a battle with Zig-Zag Zell Miller [Georgia's Governor]. Miller ordered him to cut-off TV's and phones during the day, cut the phone time to 10-minutes per call, and take out the weights ...

Michigan Consent Decree Not Changed

It seems that not a year goes by where PLN does not report at least two or three rulings concerning the ongoing effort by the Michigan DOC to vacate the various consent decrees it entered into with prisoners to settle various conditions lawsuits in the 1980's. Rather than fulfill ...

Arizona's New Tin Horn Dictator

The tyrannical rule of Arizona prison director, Sam Lewis, came to an end with his resignation in December, 1995. PLN has previously reported the oppressive tactics employed by Lewis which rolled back many of the gains made by prisoners during the 1960's and 70's. Prisoners struggled through riots ...

RFRA Applies to Retaliation Claims

A federal district court in Colorado has held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(b)(1) applies to prisoners' retaliation claims. John Hall, a Colorado state prisoner, filed suit under the RFRA and § 1983 claiming prison officials retaliated against him by placing him segregation ...

Pelican Bay Psychiatrists Resign in Protest

In the August '95 issue of PLN we reported Madrid v. Gomez, the suit challenging conditions at the Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA. Federal district court judge, Thelton Henderson, ordered the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to implement significant improvements in the mental health treatment of Pelican ...

Jailhouse Lawyers Retain Right to Assist Prisoners

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit has held that prison officials are not entitled to qualified immunity when they punish a jailhouse lawyer for assisting another prisoner. Terry Newell, an Alaska state prisoner, was employed as a prison law library clerk and had a computer in his cell ...

Texas Guard Killed by Riot Shield

Harry Landis, a 58-year-old Texas prison guard collapsed after being shocked by an electrified riot shield during a training session. Guards were being trained in the use of the "electronic capture shield" designed to subdue prisoners. The device delivers a shock of 40,000 to 50,000 volts of electricity ...

No Jurisdiction for Some Qualified Immunity Appeals

The court of appeals for the fourth circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal by prison officials accused of being deliberately indifferent to the safety of a prisoner where they stood by while he was attacked and stabbed by a drunken prisoner. The defendants had sought summary ...

Permanent Injunction Issued in Madrid

A PLN reader in Pelican Bay sent us a copy of a 26-page "Remedial Order RE: Exclusion From the Security Housing Unit" issued by U.S. district court judge Thelton Henderson on December 15, 1995. The reader who sent us the copy characterized it as "basically just more penological rhetoric ...

$460,800 Verdict in Ohio Beating Affirmed

A district court in Ohio denied prison officials' motion for a new trial and affirmed a jury verdict of $460,800 to two Ohio state prisoners who had been beaten by prisoner guards. In the January, 1995, issue of PLN we reported the jury verdict as a news item. Danny ...

Discrimination Dismissal Reversed

The court of appeals for the eleventh circuit held that prisoners have a right to be free from racial discrimination and that direct evidence of such discrimination will usually make summary judgment inappropriate. Vincent Harris, a Florida state prisoner, filed suit against several prison guards and the warden contending they ...

Administrative Reversal of Disciplinary Sanction Doesn't Bar Suit

Afederal district court in New York held that the administrative reversal of a disciplinary sanction does not bar a § 1983 suit for money damages if the prisoner had already been punished with all or part of the sanction prior to the administrative reversal. Thomas Porter, a New York state prisoner ...

Fourth Circuit Rules on IFP Statute, Again

In the July, 1995, issue of PLN we reported Nasim v. Warden, Maryland House of Correction, 42 F.3d 1472 (4th Cir. 1995) in which the fourth circuit court of appeals reversed a district court's dismissal of a prisoners' § 1983 suit as being frivolous under 28 U.S.C ...

Sandin Inapplicable to Detainee Disciplinary Claims

The court of appeals for the ninth circuit held that a jail policy prohibiting detainees from calling live witnesses to testify at disciplinary hearings, under any circumstances, was unconstitutional. The court held that prison and jail rules confer no legal rights to prisoners and that counties are not liable for ...

$150,000 Jury Award in Beating Case Affirmed

The court of appeals for the second circuit held that a prisoner beaten and held in a strip cell was properly awarded $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages by a jury. Donovan Blissett, a New York state prisoner, filed suit after Attica prison guards severely beat him after claiming ...

News in Brief

OH: On January 26, 1996, Hugh Smith, a prison guard at the Correctional Medical Center, was arrested and charged with having sex with prisoners. Smith was charged with the sexual battery of three female prisoners, the contacts were believed to have been consensual and occurred between December, 1994 and July ...

Tuberculosis TRO Issued

A federal district court in New York granted a prisoner's motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) holding that a prison's mandatory tuberculosis (TB) test violated his religious rights. Paul Jolly, a New York state prisoner, is a Muslim. In 1991 the New York DOCS implemented a TB ...